Signature & Ethics

Robert Sheppard interviewed by Edmund Hardy

Robert Sheppard was born in 1955 and grew up on the South Coast in Southwick. His books and pamphlets of poetry and criticism are numerous; many form part of the project Twentieth Century Blues. He also co-edited with Adrian Clarke the anthology Floating Capital. Most recently he has published a collection of poems Hymns To The God In Which My Typewriter Believes (Stride) and The Poetry of Saying (Liverpool University Press). He teaches at Edge Hill University.

EH: To begin with a relationship between artifice and artifice in the writing of poetry, I'm interested in your poems apparently written from photographs, most noticeably in the Empty Diaries, though elsewhere too.

RS: Your question catches me at an interesting moment. The other day I went to Tate Liverpool to see the exhibition Making History: Art and Documentary in Britain. One of my ex-students works there as a guide. I asked her if she'd been doing any writing. She said she thought she might have had with all this art around her, but hadn't. I recommended the documentary photographs – Bill Brandt, Roger Mayne, originators of images I have used, Mass Observation – rather than the paintings in the exhibition, not because their realities are not filched and filtered, but because, if we use them judiciously and deceitfully, we can imagine that they are not artificial just long enough to achieve artifice ourselves.

For that reason, I tend not to work with whole photographs, but to look at them askance, to squint at them, as it were, to see if they are showing something they didn't mean to show, or start to narrate a history that seems to be unwilled, as in Empty Diaries. Or to see if some figural element will make me say what I didn't want to say. (Christopher Middleton: 'Poems have become experiences that did not exist before the poem.') Once used, they are discarded. As I say to students, as I take away the images they have been working from, much to their annoyance, 'It's turned into words now.' Often, I feel no need to identify the sources, because they are so unsystematically processed and unrecognisable. I'd hate readers to be able to say 'That poem describes a Humphrey Spender.' At the moment I am using notes I made from a small book of photographs gathered by the artist Hans Peter Feldmann, Voyeur, so that I am making texts at two removes from his arrangement of found images.

Curiously, I have very few poems set before the invention of photography. Fucking Time, using Rochester materials, does use visuals, but they are deeply implicated in the collaborative processes I've undertaken with Patricia Farrell. Perhaps the history of photography has dictated the temporal scope of my imagination, I don't know, but I hope not.

Patricia's books of early photos were always lying around the place; she'd be sketching from them. I've read my Roland Barthes, I haunt photo galleries, and I even take the odd photo (though only once for creative purposes, in preparing Looking North), but I am interested in a far too dilettante way. I am fascinated by the slightly out of focus quality you get in the earliest photographs, as though the world is emerging from an ectoplasmic fog, and this strange window that opens on what we assume was another world. My poem 'Shutters' was a response to the photographs of Lady Hawarden, her daughters draping the furniture in front of this foggy light beyond the open shutters. Theorising the erotics of the male gaze in this is beyond me.

I'm drawn to the richness of the materials: access to the Spanish Civil War in The Lores, or I'm playing more distant games, such as in the strand of poems through Twentieth Century Blues called 'Impositions', which (imaginatively) superimposes two images and responds to the results. (I once saw a group of paintings by Art and Language at the ICA that literally did this.) The freedom you suspect the techniques and materials grant me is that the 'thing' is non-verbal and so can be transformed into various linguistic patterns of response, either brutally close to the materials or at some considerable aesthetic distance. The nearest I get to the ekphrastic is my performance 'Sudley House' which is an (anti-)guide to one of Merseyside's most intimate, domestic art collections, but even there I mix imagery from contiguous paintings, although (since the text is performed to an audience in front of certain paintings, three Turners, a Bonington, a Corot, for example) I speak to them, almost literally. But that's a contextually determined exception, a site-specific piece.

More recently, and particularly in Hymns to the God in which my Typewriter Believes I am using verbal materials more. But your question suggests that I haven't finished with such images yet, and never will.

EH: This attraction to elements which "will make me say what I didn't want to say" seems to reoccur in your work, now more playfully than before in the "texts and commentaries" of Hymns?

RS: I took the bull by the horns, not only playfully, but wilfully, in Hymns, to immerse myself in materials that seemed alien to the Robert Sheppard whose name may not be unpeeled from the surface of my other books. The book is very European in scope; I attempt 'translations' from languages I don't know. The artists saluted are often female, or from traditions alien to my own (such as Anne Sexton), and I was working consciously against the use of images, though playing with page-space in ways I hadn't hitherto. I like the feeling of dislocation that I get when I look at the poems, the feeling that I didn't write them.

As soon as I declare a conscious proscription I am unconsciously working to unravel it (which can be a risky enterprise for a poet-critic). This morning, before approaching your question, I drafted a poem beginning with full rhyme and continuing a two-beat accentual dropped line:

              Dawnlight streaks
                             the ice-capped peaks

              Guitars sleep
                             on their backs and snore

Someone in the control tower is signalling me not to do that. This poem is formally similar to the 'text and commentary' on the Sephardic song you mention, although in that poem you can see how the Sheppardic variations unfold, in an almost Oulipean way, as riffs on the speculative metaphors of the 'original': 'If the sea was made of milk...' The poem was one possible THEN...

The 'text and commentary' on Schlink's novel The Reader is structurally modelled on that book (one paragraph per chapter), which is not a technique I employ throughout, but it works here; isn't that what jazz musicians call a contrafact? I'm exploring my reading response ('It made me shake!') as well as responding to the unlikely choice of material, in the very responses as I make them, building another text, with its network of associations and metaphor as I do, that takes the reader (I hope) a long way from my originary shaking. In that case it is lifting itself beyond unease, but it's also exploring the fresh unease I felt increasingly during the writing process (hence my quotations from Celan and Perec in each part as counter words, especially the latter's 'The literature of the concentration camp does not get attacked'), not least of all when I was faced with the narrator's own unconsidered attack on 'experimental writing', which implicates my practices (and Schlink's) in an ethics beyond the ethics of literacy which is the novel's subject.

Simpler answers to your question would suggest the necessity of my finding new avenues after Twentieth Century Blues, to keep going; and another has to do with age, of not feeling I have to make particular aesthetic moves because I'm following the party line. Such a formulation is contrary to the function of poetics, as I now conceive it.

EH: When you mention, "The artists saluted are often female", as a new departure in Hymns, are you particularly aware of responding more to male artists in the past?

R.S. Yes. Although at the same time significant artistic collaborators have been women. In writing Hymns it wasn't programmatic: it just happened in looking for different materials. There's also Jiri Kolar or Hugo Dachinger.

EH: I want to ask a few questions about The Poetry of Saying, your recent critical book subtitled 'British Poetry and its Discontents, 1950-2000'. Though utilising Bakhtin and to a certain extent Vološinov, you choose a different site in developing, from the concepts of Levinas, a poetics which will always come back to an ethical interpretation.

RS: I appropriated my central concepts, the opposition between the saying and the said, a sense of face-to-face encounter with otherness, substitution, responsibility, and others I have forgotten, largely after becoming very excited by the implications of Levinas's suggestive remark in an interview: 'Man can give himself in saying to the point of poetry - or he can withdraw into the non-saying of lies. Language as saying is an ethical openness to the other; as that which is said - reduced to a fixed identity or synchronized presence - it is an ontological closure of the other.' That set me off onto the development of an ethical – but I don't think metaphysical - level for my theory, to match the technical and the socio-linguistic levels. I was immensely helped by Robert Eaglestone's Ethical Criticism, Reading After Levinas (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1997), although I think that it was also from that source that I derived the less than accurate notion that Levinas himself divorced his theological writings from his philosophy. Levinas's own response to the massacres in the Sabra and Shatila camps suggests he was not able to particularise what he finds so easy to universalise. He seems to be selective about Otherness in a way that denies the commonalities of biological humanity. What saves his philosophy (even from himself) is that it is concerned to show the grounds of ethicality in relationship, not in the diktats of moralism. It is very suggestive for the development of a poetics.

EH: In the Raworth chapter you write of Raworth's "apprehension of velocity", perhaps the speed of intuition which is the speed of practise (and performance), or going so fast that, in 'Catacoustics', "artifice swallows itself". Speed instead of "connectives". Can you say more about a social comprehension of this high speed form, in Raworth and in your own practise, your speeded-up collage where the connectives have "melted"?

RS: Velopoetics! Part of my apprehension (rather than comprehension) of speed has to do with intense experiences of listening to performances of poetry during the late 1980s. A tape of Raworth reading Eternal Sections. The experience of hearing Maggie O'Sullivan live at Sub Voicive. Both of these – the tape played over and over, the reading experienced only once – induced experiences that approach what I later equated with the openness of 'saying'. Language particles seemed to detach themselves not just from reference, but from syntax, a deterritorialised experience of language that re-territorialised as a ritornello, in Guattari's formulation, an existential refrain that sustains the self and yet melts it into forces of intersubjectivation. That's how he would put it anyway. In Raworth's case this was to do with speed of delivery (in O'Sullivan's case to do with neologism and rhythm). I don't remember whether the fact I was trying to write in similar forms made me more receptive to this, but I was also aware of making effects through a speedy delivery, of writing in ways that create fleet performances, like Duchamp's 'swift nudes' that fizz and whistle across his surfaces. A celerity of mind, part immediacy, and sustained by references to its own processes. I thought – as I do not now – that what a poem does is more important than what it says. Looking back, it seems less tied to the practice of the language poets than it appeared at the time – I'm talking about the 1980s, works like 'Daylight Robbery' and 'Swift Nudes'.

What I notice now – having checked out the CD of Raworth reading Writing - is that Raworth's work is full of interferences to the flow, jump-cuts, interruptions, that both attest to the celerity and yet break it, and this strikes me as Levinasian too, as Tim Woods and others have pointed out also. This is the necessary rupture that erupts the quality of saying into the said. The 14 line poems that Raworth 'juggled' into final assemblage seem to balance those demands absolutely.

How this translates into my own work I'm not sure. I read some of my texts at a pace, if they seem to demand it, or demanded it during their construction or creation, and I am aware of an 'accelerated collage' at work in my jumps and swings, though I am much less addicted to such procedures these days. Notational high-speed writing is perhaps an illusion (this is something I am discussing with Cliff Yates at the moment, for his PhD), an artifice that initiates liberation in the reader; Pound intuited that 'images' produced just this sort of ritornello, so it's nothing new. Of course I am not validating speed alone (the logic of Velopolis we live within); mental celerity must equate with more foundational notions of the aesthetic and the imagination, or even ethical action, rather than pure technical proficiency. I am intensely aesthetic rather than technical.

EH: In your chapter on Maggie O'Sullivan you write about the "spectral saying on the saidness of the material page" which is reading, and quote Christopher Middleton on the voices of a text which, launched by the poet's, are "a kind of endophone." So reading involves an inner speaking and an inner ear, voices imaginary and unmistakable. You seem to have a level of faith in reading as the other of a text? "To read is to be proximate to, to face alterity as distance, and be implored to answer, as Bakhtin would say."

RS: That last remark is a description of this interview, isn't it, but maybe of all textual dialogue?

Despite what I say about the effectiveness of O'Sullivan reading above, or perhaps because of it, really... You are quoting from a caveat right at the end of the book about the limits of performance, which is pretty much an unquestioned valorised term in the poetics I've been associated with – and, of course, I've done my bit as a performer and I'm proud of it! Middleton – a marvellous writer of poetics as a speculative discourse and a poet of major significance, it seems to me; I am currently re-reading him – argues that the sonic patternings of language are too complex to be perceived in oral performance alone. His conjectures suggest an important limitation upon performance, or rather, they displace actual performance onto a more complex performative relationship with the eye and brain, which is just as bodily in its way: 'The reader imaginatively somatizes the vocality of the text, for it has aroused in him various other sense-traces, which may be hard to fix'. It's a slightly different point, but my reading of O'Sullivan's poem 'Naming' in The Poetry of Saying is a slow motion tracking of semantics and etymology, sonics and page-spatiality, through the text. It necessarily interrupts performance in a narrow sense.

There's a broader point here, I think, which links my long-held faith in the reader with more recent questions of form. I noticed, at the Partly Writing conversations I attended at Bury in 2005, some contributors really wanted to get text moving, quite literally, morphing and diving on screen, which is, of course, a form of performance. (In fact, florid-faced lecturers are already bouncing textual fragments across their multi-coloured Powerpoint screens in quite an alarming way.) What they seemed to be forgetting was that the movement of the reading eye across the printed page already performs that kind of spatial dancing, a little like Middleton's sonic eye. If you're not careful, the performative in the hands of some performers – not Raworth and O'Sullivan, of course – does our reading for us. People are shouting at me! That text is morphing before my eyes, beyond my control or recall! These are experienced as alienating, endless streams of saying, not at all like the experience of reading and re-reading Raworth, but as something un-anchored to the said, the necessary materiality I talk about in my book, that stops the saying and the said becoming merely a tired binary. (Certain concrete poems get very pedantic in their iconicity, though never the great ones, which are concerned with the nature of signification itself.) Only a kind of restedness can allow us to appreciate the irreducible otherness of the work, from which it derives its power, it seems to me. To borrow a formulation of Derek Attridge, literary works must be allowed to stage their own meaning(s), which is what Raworth and O'Sullivan can do.

EH: You mention that you've written a few short stories recently. What's going on there?

RS: For ten years I've taught creative writing and worked with fiction writers as well as poets at Edge Hill. In a very ordinary sense, the skills of editing I have learned about fiction made me decide simply: it's time to have a go, and stage my own meanings! Actually, this is a return to work I was doing years ago, and there's always been a touch of fictionality and narrativity in my poetry anyway. But the forms that are coming out are quite interesting to me. They are works of poetics – that other discourse to which I willingly owe allegiance: a 'text and commentary' on Breton's Nadja set in Liverpool, called Thelma, or stories about writers which chew over issues at the heart of writing. (The first part of Thelma will appear in Tears in the Fence soon.) Having written a book on Iain Sinclair probably has something to do with it too. The fiction obsesses over the ethics of writing, sometimes parodying my actual poetic work to test its limits. But it's too early to see where this will lead, or even how much I will attempt to publish. Oddly, the stories rise unbidden into consciousness, like false memories, and demand to be written, quite unlike the poetry. I think the experience is quite a profound one because it seems to be changing the way I'm working, the ways I think about my poetry, in a fashion that is not conclusive enough to express yet.

This has also got something to do with the experience of reading Christopher Middleton again (though that is my current pre-occupation): his sense of the poem as artefact mediating the world of things and language, his feeling for the liminal and the demonic, his conjecture that poetry comes out of 'a sudden swerve of language crystallizing in some daring, voiced image, which somehow alerts the whole nervous system', as he puts it in his Shearsman book Palavers. They are both provocations to my habitual ways of thinking and working, I suppose. And that, at the greatest level of generality, is what poetics does to you, for you, if you are receptive as a writer.

I have a sense of wanting to move towards a writing that is both complex and lucid, that avoids my most obvious 'avant-garde' strategies. I also feel that I no longer belong to a grouping of writers, a fructifying feeling I certainly had in the decade from 1985 in London (which I even allow myself to trace in The Poetry of Saying - and can be found on my Pages blogzine as the serialised 'A History of the Other'). At a certain age I suppose poetics becomes more individualized. In fact, I just found myself saying all of these things in a footnote to an article on Krszyztof Ziarek recently, quite unbidden.

EH: Can you say something about your new 'September 12' poem?

RS: One of the impulses behind writing fiction was to swerve away from this sequence of near-sonnets because I felt that it was the best thing I'd ever written. Its poetics are probably embodied in a piece entitled 'Rattling the Bones (for Adrian Clarke)' which appears on Softblow and which will hopefully stand at the head of a volume. It's pretty clear what happened before September 12, of course. It's about the aftermath of that – which sounds like an inadequate summary. I'm currently working on another sequence of 24 to supplement it, at the moment called 'September 10', the ones that I mentioned earlier, that use my notes from Feldmann, and the little quote from the opening lines of a poem comes from that too. I hope you will forgive me if I decline to say much more about it - the fear of talking it away, or of falsely influencing it, and all that. Instead, here's the one I wrote yesterday, still in draft form, the ninth of the series. It can also stand as an unpolished example of my use of multiple photographic images:

Giving Up Whatever Ghost

He slouches in the front row of the stalls
adjusting opera glasses at his nose. While he
inspects the safety curtain you scrutinise his nape,
scrubbed, beneath his slicked-back denial of hair

The curtain rises; his glasses descend. Democracy
breaks out, caught in its own crossfire:

Teargas hits the centre of the crowd; it fans out
cursing and gasping. One hand reaches
for the bread; three mouths moisten in this:

The soprano's dress slips down her frame.
The ringlets of her wiry wig cascade
as crescendo beckons; her throat tightens.
Her shoulders struggle free into the perfect air
of purest song; embrace wordless blackout.

E.H. Is Guattari's Chaosmosis an important book for you? When you speak about Guattari you seem to get closest to a politics of writing.

RS: Do I? I use a small part of Chaosmosis in The Poetry of Saying – one of the bits I could understand, I am no exegete of this material - as part of an argument about autopoiesis in the work of Maggie O'Sullivan – her becoming embodied in her poems - that is actually lifted by Guattari from early Bakhtin. There was a time when everybody read Deleuze and Guattari but now they only read Deleuze. (At this moment Patricia is working downstairs on her PhD on Deleuze (and Lyotard).) Guattari's relegated in that reassessment despite the contribution he made to Deleuze's thought, to the development of concepts (which, they both agreed, was the purpose of philosophy).

I was much taken by a 1987 micro-text of Guattari published in Poetics Journal 8 called 'Text for the Russians', which was an address to writers in which he talks about making 'virulent fragments of partial enunciation work by virtue of shifts in subjectivity', making ritornelli, and also states: 'The poetic function is more than ever called upon to recompose artificially rarefied and resingularized universes of subjectivity' and he praises poetry's 'capacity to promote active, procedural ruptures at the core of significatory tissues and semiotic denotatives, from which to set new worlds of reference to work.' (It's what we all want to hear and my 'Empty Diary 1987' pays homage to, and quotes from, this brief and suggestive statement.) I might then have been more interested in those linguistic 'tissues' than the 'worlds of reference' – but it gave me a different way in than the language poets, maybe, to begin thinking about Twentieth Century Blues. Some of this returns in Guattari's Chaosmosis which – Patricia tells me – is regarded by the continental philosophy community as incoherent.

Over the last year or so I've been reading Guattari's historically prescient late essay of 1992, The Three Ecologies, which argues for the inter-dependence of the psyche, the socius and the environment. Thelma launches off on this one: 'Just for once a book, opened at random, has an answer. It says I am "a montage of drives haunting the socius"'.

Following on from the ethical turn in my thinking – The Poetry of Saying and also my poetics piece The Anti-Orpheus (free e-book) I find myself approaching an aesthetic turn – there's a real turn here (at last) in the culture, represented by a book like Derek Attridge's The Singularity of Literature. All of which takes me back somewhat – it's not a homecoming but a new discovery – to Adorno and Marcuse, and thus back to the political as embodied in the estrangements of form. (The latter is the 'unnamed thinker' in the fourth of my Berlin Bursts on Shadow Train.

Most recently I have been considering Krzysztof Ziarek's The Force of Art (2004), which tries to make an anti-aesthetics of out of both Adorno and Heidegger.

Ziarek conceives of the work of art as a force field. It is not an object but an event, inhering in neither form nor content, and this eventness makes the artwork a forcework, in his central neologism.

In the work of art, forces are no longer tethered by the dominant social reality. In a redefinition of the concept of the autonomy of the artwork, as that is theorised by Adorno, Ziarek insists not only that artworks transform and re-work their forces, but that they transform the ordinary relations of social power, and the receivers of the artwork can carry this non-violent, power-free relationality into social praxis. All this sounds very promising, politically speaking. However, Ziarek's dissolving of the artwork as an object in order to maintain its forcework, means that artistic making (and poetics as formulations of that), artistic materiality and medium (and aesthetics that account for the negotiation of these) are ruled out of court, so that formal innovation as a factor in contemporary artistic and literary practice is undervalued. In short, it's a book that doesn't (yet) speak to me as a poet, so it will have to await its moment. I'm not very scholarly or philosophical about all this – and ever more aware of this as Patricia's work progresses - but I hope that I don't produce what Marjorie Perloff witheringly calls 'theory buzz'.

EH: As long as the buzz is a true sign of thought! In the Anti-Orpheus the letter there ("Signature Style") speaks of the act of signature. What are the implications of that act?

RS: You sign the frame because you are responsible for the artefact you produce and you should say so afterwards. Robert (or whatever your author-function is) made this. It is not to say that the 'me' that makes the text is the 'I' that might (or might not) appear in it. Neither is this 'signature' in the metaphorical sense of a significant stylistically identifiable set of traits or procedures that seems to unify an author's work – and Perloff has written recently of signature as such an 'identifying mark' in the work of the language poets, a group of writers who have been vociferous against the effects of 'voice' in poetry, which is, of course, the most common metaphor for this.

But there is another rôle for 'authoredness', as Derek Attridge calls it in The Singularity of Literature. 'A full response to the otherness of the literary work includes an awareness of, a respect for, and in a certain sense ... a taking of responsibility for, the creativity of its author.' We acknowledge the poem, or whatever, has been 'written' he says, is 'a writing' which requires a reading, in the fullest sense.

While Perloff is not advocating a simple return to 'voice', neither is Attridge advocating a simple return to author's intentionality. Both an ethics of signature and an awareness of authoredness belong to the reading of a work. This doesn't mean this won't have implications for (or in) the act of creativity, if only this is holding such formulations in your mind as you write. Perhaps this is partly what Roy Fisher was enacting, making his mark, when he wrote, in Wonders of Obligation,

The things we make up out of language
turn into common property.
To feel responsible
I put my poor footprint back in.

E.H.: In your interview with Tim Allen for the Salt book Don't Start Me Talking you mention, in passing, a poetics of strands (almost to be found) in Yeats as he returns to particular places and themes. In your Twentieth Century Blues the strands are named and numbered. How does this idea of strands relate to the cubo-seriality identified by Charles Bernstein or other ideas of stretched (if broken) composition?

RS: The idea of strands was very distantly suggested by Yeats – those Coole Park poems – and also by Robert Duncan's 'The Structure of Rime' sequence that cuts across his books, between poems, and then I wondered what would happen if you permitted yourself to link not just one sequence but several and then allow them to interrelate and interrupt one another. Very early into the project I described the method as I saw it developing (in the article 'Poetic Sequencing and the New'). Certainly I was thinking about Zukofsky, filtered through Barrett Watten's writing on him, quoted in that piece, and about Allen Fisher's multiple-reading routes through Place (rendered slightly redundant by the recent book presentation of that work). I probably had more anti-models than models, more examples of what I didn't want it to be. It's actually a set of hyperlinks, although that example was unknown to most of us when I began in 1989.

In this question about my work I find it is impossible for me to present a reading or contextualization of it, because I believe deeply that that is the freedom of the reader and critic. I can talk about poetics, of course. But I can never read my own work: in fact, I passionately believe that that is the reason for the existence of poetics as a specific discourse, to allow writers to have dialogue with their processes without imposing interpretations upon their products.

E.H.: What was the atmosphere like at Writers Forum over the time that you attended? Can you remember the first time you went?

RS: No, I can't remember the first time, but it was only in the 1990s, although I had known Bob since 1973: the first poet I'd met, by the way. The atmosphere was described in my piece for Bob's 75th birthday, rather well, I think: the mixture of rapture, drunkenness, exuberance and concentration. It had the structure of a Quaker meeting; anybody who got the call could stand up and give forth. Anything goes was the aesthetic rule but there were subtle controls, Bob's eyes mainly. He had these deep-set penetrating eyes that could look through you. And so: you would get the regulars like Lawrence Upton, Adrian Clarke, Betty Radin, Johan DeWitt, Patrick Fetherston and Patricia and myself, always with something new to offer, and a number of them (not me) performed sound poetry with Bob. Jennifer Cobbing (Pike) would drop in to dance now and then, all in the upstairs room of a pub with a pool table in the centre, covered with Writers Forum booklets. Then he'd have extraordinary guests: major concrete poets like Lora-Totino or Pierre Garnier, the Russian sound poet Dimitri Prigov. Steve MacCaffery and Karen McCormack dropped by to see us all once. I'm in danger of leaving names out... I wish I'd kept better records….

In short it was the least directed and most focussed workshop I've ever attended, whose atmosphere I greatly miss, but sadly believe I would never be able to approximate, as a workshop facilitator, either inside or outside the academy. It was also a venue for visiting writers, as I've said, and it was the slipway for launching every Writers Forum booklet. It was also a place of friendship, and occasionally a bit of fighting.

E.H. Might we see a follow-up to The Poetry of Saying, another large critical project?

RS: The Poetry of Saying took 25 years to finally get done. My little book on Sinclair took a couple. So I'm getting quicker! I have plans to write a book on the discourse of poetics within formally innovative poetries, but apart from a general piece defining poetics – and a couple of articles – one on Allen Fisher and Charles Bernstein, another on Maggie O'Sullivan – nothing has been written yet, other than a proposal. But the more I think of what I 'should' do as a critic makes me feel slightly desperate to get back to writing poetry.

[Interview edited from an email exchange between Edmund Hardy and Robert Sheppard which began on 17th April 2006 and continued for four weeks.]

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